A major frost that wiped out 95% of Florida’s winter tomato crop has resulted in a severe shortage, putting a financial squeeze on restaurants throughout the nation. Pizzerias, bistros and fast-food chains, faced with skyrocketing prices for low-quality imported tomatoes (left), have chosen to substitute other vegetables in their food servings. Creative companies have discovered vegetables as diverse as eggplant, turnips, rutabagas, even collard greens, as suitable stand-ins for the pricey tomatoes. Restaurant chains and local eateries all over are jumping on the opportunity to cut out the high-priced ingredient.
“We’ve been filling the gaps with red-dyed slices of artichokes on our burgers and chicken sandwiches,” exclaimed a food development scientist at the headquarters of a national burger chain. “So far, only a few people have noticed the difference. A couple emails from customers grousing about a ‘funny textural thing going on’ - that’s about all.”
Still, there was some skepticism from consumers.
“It’s bad enough we have to wonder about the mystery meat served at these places,” lamented a customer at a pizza slice restaurant in Toledo, Ohio. “Now it’s mystery vegetables? What else are they going to start loading into this shit we eat…Soylent Green?”
Despite the criticism, expect restaurateurs to continue with the veggie substitutions, at least until the summer crops hit the market.